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Mother of alleged New Hanover school shooter says her son was violently bullied, NHCS failed to protect him

Domanae Deablo
Benjamin Schachtman
Domanae Deablo, seated on the left, and a family member during Thursday's meeting at Sokoto House.

On Monday, a massive fight erupted at New Hanover High School, ending in gunfire. One student was shot, another was arrested. The mother of the alleged shooter spoke out on Thursday, calling her son a beloved member of the community — and also saying the school should have done more to prevent what she described as violent bullying.

In the wake of the shooting, rumors, speculation, and two cellphone videos of the incident circulated rampantly — but little hard information was available. While Sheriff Ed McMahon had taken the unusual step of naming the juvenile suspect during a press conference, neither he nor District Attorney Ben David answered questions. The New Hanover County Schools district also released only limited information.

Then, on Thursday, the mother of the alleged shooter — Domanae Deablo — agreed to speak to the press at an event hosted by Sokoto House. With a crowd of reporters and community members looking on, Deablo spoke about her son, who is currently in juvenile detention awaiting a decision about whether or not he will be tried as an adult.

Below: You can watch the full video below

Editor's note: While speaking, Deablo used her son's full name — as does the full video post from Sokoto House, and the GoFundMe page the family set up to help fund his legal defense. However, it is WHQR's policy not to name juvenile criminal suspects (a policy shared by the Wilmington Police Department and many other, but not all, law enforcement agencies).

Deablo explained that, this year, her son was moved from Laney to New Hanover High — putting him at odds with students who saw him as being from the ‘wrong side of town.’ She alluded to gang activity but didn't give specifics (although she was clear her son was not in a gang).

She said her son was attacked on his first day of school.

"He said, 'a couple guys started following me.' He said, 'I heard him on the phone speaking with someone else saying he's here. His brother's not here. And he's with his cousin and he doesn't have any help,'" she said.

Following the altercation, Deablo said her son was suspended, but his punishment was reduced after the school determined the assailant wasn’t a student. Reluctantly, the family allowed him to return — but only after asking both the school administration and the district’s head of security for protective measures to be put in place. Deablo said she was told that would happen.

"They both had me under the impression that the very first fight, the gentleman was not supposed to be on campus — and that they will put things in place to make sure that this would not happen again," she said.

After her son returned to school, Deablo’s family received information indicating her son would be jumped again. Her husband went down to the school — but her son reassured him he was okay.

Thirty minutes later, a massive fight broke out, ending in gunfire. Deablo said she feels like she failed her son.

“I just feel like maybe I shouldn't have taken him back to that school. Maybe my husband should have just went on to check them out. We beat ourselves up about — [my husband] couldn't even speak today, he couldn't even hold himself together. Because he feels like 30 minutes before this occurred he was at the school. And we just feel responsible because we should have just said 'no, you're not going back there,'" she said.

She said the school district also failed her, and her son.

“This is about accountability. And I did everything I could as a parent to prevent anything, anything further from occurring... What I'm saying is that I thought I had things in place to help my son. And they failed me and I failed him," she said.

Deablo said she was concerned that what happened to her son could happen to other students. Asked what, in her opinion, schools could do differently, she pointed to the lack of adults seen in two viral videos of the fight that preceded the shooting.

“When parents come to speak to you about incidents? Take them seriously. Put things in place — I don't know if you've seen the video or not, it's a very long video, but not one adult present, not one officer present in the entire video, neither video," she said.

In a statement, New Hanover County Schools said it would not comment, and that it was “prioritizing the safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

Deablo said she won’t address the allegations against her son, but she said categorically that he wasn’t involved in gangs and that the family did not keep a gun in the house.

Deablo said she is committed to handling the legal side of things properly, noting that she had told her son to surrender himself to law enforcement, and to act respectfully. A GoFund Me has been started to help with with her son's legal defense.

Then there’s the issue of her son’s name.

Deablo said she was asked by law enforcement if they could use her son's name — and that she said no.

“They asked me at the house, could they use his name? I said, No. They said, we're gonna do it anyway, because he's the only child that's missing from the school. I said, so why even ask? If you're going to do it anyway," she said.

Sheriff Ed McMahon named her son several times during a press conference, and later tried to effectively retract it, asking media outlets to stop using the name he himself had released.

Deablo was frustrated, but is now more concerned with making sure people know her son the way she and her community do. Speaking with WHQR after the event had ended, Deablo said:
“I just want I just want to make sure that my son, [that] his name is put out there in a way that it should be — and you guys can hear the truth about who he is as a person, not about what occurred."

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.